Living in a country like South Africa, which has the highest unemployment rate in the world, can be a very stressful experience for a graduate. The unemployment rate in South Africa is 44.4% and more than half of the youth are unemployed. Employment opportunities are scarce meaning there is a lot of competition for each opportunity. Only having a degree is not enough to get you employed, you need to improve your employability so that you may have a better chance at finding suitable employment.
Employability refers to one’s ability to gain employment, maintain employment as well as get employed elsewhere if need be. Employability is not just about getting a job; it also refers to a broader set of skills and attributes that will enable you to have a successful career throughout your life. If you are a young unemployed graduate (or even if you are employed), we have some great tips for you to improve your employability, particularly in the biodiversity or green economy.
“The biodiversity economy encompasses businesses and other economic activities that either directly depend on biodiversity for their core business or that contribute to conservation of biodiversity through their activities”
South Africa is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, therefore the biodiversity economy is the basis of employment across many sectors. Here are a few tips to improve your employability so you may access more opportunities within the biodiversity, water or environmental sector.
Improve your soft skills
Soft skills are interpersonal attributes that are required in the workplace. Soft skills help you utilize your hard skills to their full extent, some may even argue that soft skills are more important than hard skills. Soft skills include leadership skills, communication skills, problem-solving skills, teamwork, work ethic, adaptability, interpersonal skills, time-management skills, etc. You may learn or develop these skills through reading books, listening to podcasts, reading blog articles, and watching online videos that are relevant to the skill you are trying to develop.
Work on your CV
Your CV is one of the most important instruments when looking for employment, make sure it is professional, clear, concise, and up-to-date! It is easy to forget what you have accomplished over a long period of time, make sure that you update your CV constantly! Keep a record of your certificates and achievements, you never know when you might need them. Make sure that you adjust your CV to the job description every time you apply for a new position. Don’t be afraid to send out your CV to trusted people that will review it and provide feedback or suggestions on how you can improve it.
Gain Practical Skills
We have already mentioned soft skills and why they are important. However, in addition to your degree, it is important to gain practical skills or hard skills. You may acquire some hard skills in university, however hard skills are enhanced through practice and repetition. You may improve your hard skills through part-time jobs, work experience placement, volunteering, fellowships, internships, etc. There are a variety of volunteering and internship opportunities in the biodiversity and green economy, always be on the lookout for these as they help you get a competitive edge in the job market (also check out the GreenMatter Fellowship opportunity). Volunteerism is a great way to get your foot in the door for any job in these sectors.
Build your Professional Social Media Profile
A lot of employers use social media to find the ideal candidate, you can use this to your advantage. Put in effort in getting noticed on social media. Ensure that you list your degree information and work experience in your profile. Follow organizations that are aligned with the biodiversity industry to keep up to date with the latest news and developments within the South African biodiversity sector (be sure to follow GreenMatter on social media). Interact with people that are part of the biodiversity sector. If your social media profiles are public, ensure that there are no posts that may decrease your chances of success. LinkedIn is the best platform for professional networking, be sure to check out important people in your field and get tips on how they structure their profiles.
Find a Mentor
Find a mentor who is also in the biodiversity economy, but also further along with their career. These people have more knowledge and a better understanding of the biodiversity economy and they can teach you invaluable lessons that you would have otherwise learned the hard way. One of the trickiest things about finding a mentor is that mentoring is often informal, which can make it difficult to find an entry point. The GreenMatter Fellowship also has an amazing mentorship program.
Grow your Professional Network
Finding a job isn’t only about what you know, it is also about who you know. It is very important to build your network within the biodiversity economy, this will be key to developing your career. You may use social media platforms to enrich your network. Be sure to create and maintain good relationships with colleagues, volunteers, or fellows when you are involved in volunteering, internships, work experience, or fellowship programs. Attend events and conferences that are in line with the biodiversity sector and take part in programs such as the Imvelisi Enviropreneur Programme.
Develop a Growth-Mindset
A growth mindset is an amazing approach to life, where one believes that their talents, skills, and abilities can be developed further. People with growth mindsets are constantly seeking opportunities to improve and grow, personally and professionally. Developing a growth mindset improves your employability because it allows you to develop positive habits and behaviors that will enhance your career success within the biodiversity sector.
Whether you are still in university, looking for employment, or are already employed, it is essential to always improve your employability. Now that you know how to improve your employability, make sure to apply this advice now. All the best!
Environmental Youth for the Future!
How often do you put off work until the very last minute? Have you opened your laptop, trying to get some work done, but ended up being busy on your phone instead? Or that time you realized that you are 2 hours into your 15-minute break? Sound familiar? Then it is needless to say that you are a procrastinator. Welcome to the club!
“Everybody procrastinates but not everyone is a procrastinator” – Joseph Ferrari
What is procrastination? Well, procrastination is defined as the act of delaying a task or a series of tasks until the last minute. No matter how important the task at hand is, procrastination always seems to find a way to lurk in. Why do we procrastinate? We tend to have a fear of failing the tasks at hand, therefore we delay finishing them or starting them.
While procrastination can be harmless if not excessive, we also have to keep in mind that it can have serious consequences that will effect your future as a leader in the biodiversity sector. Procrastination can lead to poor performance academically or at work. For instance, take an EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) Specialist that is tasked with conducting an EIA for a project. Procrastinating the start or finalisation of that EIA would likely lead to poor performance and the EIA Specialist could also be tempted to copy and paste from previous EIA Reports due to the lack of time.
“Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today” – Benjamin Franklin
Procrastination tends to promote negative feelings, it makes us lose precious time which may lead to us not achieving our goals or blowing precious opportunities. It may also affect your reputation, if you are constantly producing work that is not up to standard, your career suffers. Take for instance a Biodiversity Officer that produces a mediocre Biodiversity Conservation Strategy and Action Plan for an organisation, how likely are they to be trusted with another major project? The negative impacts of procrastination can have career-changing impacts, but don’t you worry, we have some procrastination hacks that will help you deal with procrastination as part of your personal mastery for career success.
Procrastination Hack #1 – Set SMART Goals!
Setting goals allows you to have direction and an idea of your workload. Rather than knowing at the back of your mind that you have heaps of work to do, setting goals allows you to know exactly how much work you have and how to go about getting it done. It’s important to have SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound) Goals. “Complete the report” is a rather vague goal which is likely to lead to procrastination. “Write 500 words everyday from Monday to Friday, to complete the report by the end of the week” is smarter because it applies the principles of SMART goals.
Procrastination Hack #2 – Eat the Frog!
If your to-do list is an ocean of tasks, then it is time to prioritize! Rank your tasks on a scale of 1-10 based on importance. Start with the important tasks first! Have you ever heard of the phrase “eat the frog”? It is a simple method that requires you to do the most important task first, this enables you to use your best energy to complete the important task. (Here check out this book: “Eat the big frog first”. It will give this section some extra punch. 😊
Procrastination Hack #3 – Use Time-Management Techniques!
Managing your time effectively can help you feel more in charge of your work-load. Using time-management techniques such as the Pomodoro Technique can help. This technique allows you to work with the time that you have, for instance 2 hours, you break it down into segments (perhaps of 20 minutes) separated by 5 minutes breaks, after four segments you may allow yourself to take a longer break.
Well there you have it! Some actionable procrastination hacks to help you achieve personal mastery for career success, enabling you to make an impact and leave your legacy within the biodiversity sector!
GreenMatter is a multi-stakeholder organisation that implements the National Biodiversity Human Capital Development Strategy for South Africa.